Corporate Gifting Post COVID-19 – What Changes

When life gives you lemon, make lemonade.

In this article, we dig into what there will be less and more of, to help marketers and HR managers make informed decisions when spending on branded merchandise. We’re all minding our pennies now.

We explore how the promo industry needs to adapt. The sector has been hit hard by the global economic fall-out of COVID-19. Alongside those it has traditionally served, including the hospitality, travel and eventing sectors, it is necessary to swiftly pivot and re-invent ourselves, to remain relevant and not only survive, but thrive in the new terrain thrust upon us.

The quicker we are able to understand our clients’ changed needs, and adjust our service / product offering accordingly, the sooner we’ll be able to add value, and recover from the enormous financial impact of the hard lockdown.

There will be Less of

The era of consumerism has been dealt a blow, which is a good thing. Coupled with flatter purses, there will be less to waste, and fewer meaningless gifts of little or no value to the recipient. Brand curators will be required to be more mindful than ever when selecting branded marketing material.

Physical distancing will be with us for a long time, some say a year or more. In person shopping has changed suddenly from enjoyable “retail therapy” to a stressful exercise, to be kept as short as possible. This means less opportunity for instore brand activation, and careful consideration will need to be given to the nature of prizes, freebies and swag incorporated into the marketing plan.

The end (for now) of large gatherings like conferences, sports events and rallies, means fewer opportunities for bulk quantity branded giveaways.

In the B2B environment, the sudden large-scale adoption of platforms like Zoom will continue, resulting in less in-person meetings. Annual trade shows and conventions will be replaced by virtual events, resulting in a different requirement for commemorative merchandise.

And More of

Our collective human psyche has been traumatised. Without question, the biggest change will be towards becoming more “people centric” in every aspect of business.

This means a move towards giving aimed at appreciation, recognition and acknowledgement of loyalty, and human effort. There will further be an upsurge in onboarding gifts for new customers and staff. More resources will be made available for personalised gifting, the unboxing experience, and drop shipping.

Working from home will continue for many, even post lockdown, and this coupled with a keener awareness of keeping healthy will mean more home-based exercise.

Most businesses that incorporate tangible material into their marketing mix will be shifting emphasis from quality to quantity, opting to give more premium, meaningful gifts, to fewer recipients. Becoming more niched on their existing customers, and laser focused on quantifying prospective clients.

Given the health risk associated with the physical retail environment, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed a greater number of South Africans past lingering aversion to e-commerce shopping. More B2C online transactions mean fewer people in stores, and less opportunity for direct contact with customers.

A greater emphasis will be put on sourcing locally, due in part to a drive world-wide to supporting local industry, and the supply chain from China being disrupted. In the long run the pandemic has put local manufacturers of brandable goods like clothing, bags, stationery etc, back on the map.

Lockdown isolation has provided much time for media consumption, and reflection. This will place dramatically more appreciation on earth-friendly gifting, as we (finally) give more consideration to the planet; and take responsibility for the damage caused by relentless consumerism.

What this Means

In a very short space of time, we have all become notably more introspective, pragmatic, and philosophical. As a result of intense reflection on core values, our individual and collective outlook on both the personal and professional front has changed. Forever.

It is essential for professionals like us in the promotional gifts industry, to come along clients to understand how their needs have changed. We serve our clients AND their clients.

We have the responsibility to be proactive, and help clients plan well in advance for more intentional, brand aligned gifting. Bringing our expertise and product knowledge to the table, we have an opportunity through collaboration, to facilitate maximised ROI on the marketing adspend.

The promo industry has become complacent. Similarly, many brand curators have fallen into the “last minute dot com” trap, which not only limits options, but often results in compromise, and material being chosen that isn’t necessarily valuable to the recipient.

Careful thought will further need to be given to the nature and practice of brand activations, taking into account social distancing, and changed consumer’s needs.

Catalogue items have a place and are convenient and cost effective. But sometimes it pays to look beyond the obvious, and customise. As branding specialists, we will need to be willing and able to go beyond merely putting logos on gifting ranges from catalogue items. We are able to add value, by helping clients curate distinctive artwork, and where possible to develop customised gifts, in an effort to differentiate themselves, while supporting local industry.

Kind of Gifts

The following are categories that will become popular:

  • Work from home (stationery, drinkware, tech)
  • Wellness / fitness (clothing, PPE, home fitness equipment)
  • Staff appreciation (tech, clothing, drinkware)
  • Client appreciation (tech, clothing, lifestyle)
  • Earth friendly (recycle or responsibly sourced)
  • Pre-collated and attractive gift sets

Last Man Standing

It won’t be enough to have self-help website with products and a Woo Commerce plug in. To be amongst the “last men standing”, promo houses will need to exercise empathy with clients’ specific situations, be able to pivot quickly, and provide more value than processing an order. Those with have a depth of industry expertise, and able to provide a convenient turnkey solution, to include design, packaging and logistics, will have a distinct advantage in the new “human centric” landscape.

Meanwhile, remember the advice of Winston Churchill, to “Never let a good crisis go to waste”!

The Londonderry & Brook team are geared and equipped for the new space. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

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